Saturday, 20 August 2016

Aditi Ashok-Golfer from Bangalore, youngest woman golfer at Rio2016 ends heroic campaign-Profile of a future champion

Aditi Ashok ends heroic campaign in Women's Golf event

India's Aditi Ashok went through a horrendous third round of eight-over 79 to drop 23 places to be tied 31st in the women's golf event at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

The 18-year-old, who scored two successive three-under 68 to be tied eighth till the 36 holes, played a poor back-nine where she was bogged down by five bogeys.

Now she has a three-day total of two-over 215. With Friday's performance, her hopes of getting a medal ended.

Aditi, the youngest woman golfer at Rio, got a bogey on the second hole before pulling things back with a birdie on the fifth.

But she carded a bogey on the seventh hole to complete the front-nine with a score of one-over 36.

In the back-nine, she made three consecutive birdes starting from the 11th before getting two more bogeys on the 18th to get a 79.
India’s Aditi Ashok started her maiden Olympics campaign on a high, carding an impressive three-under 68 to finish tied seventh after the opening round. By the end of second round, the Bangalore teenager was tied eighth. The third round, however, didn’t go to the plan as she dropped 23 places to be tied 31st.

The young golfer, whose date with the sport started as a 5 ½ years old with a chance breakfast near Karnataka Golf Association, has shown enough spark to be considered a long-term prospect.

She is the only Indian golfer to have played the Asian Youth Games (2013) Youth Olympic Games (2014) and Asian Games (2014). Her maiden national win was at the age of 9 years and 10 months. She is a three-time National Junior Champion and two-time National Amateur Champion.

Here’s all you need to know about the youngest golfer in fray at the Rio Olympics:

Date of Birth: March 29, 1998

Place: Bangalore

Turned professional: January 1, 2016

Status: Ladies European Tour full member

Youngest in the field at Rio at 18 years

School: Frank Anthony Public School, Bangalore

Started learning golf at 5 and ½ years and played first round at 6 years 2 months. Her home club is Bangalore Golf Club, also practices at the Karnataka Golf Association

Hobbies: Reading, movies, music

Golf coach: Steven Giuliano

Strength and conditioning coach: Nicolas Cabaret

Current rankings

Official Women’s World Ranking (Rolex Ranking): 462

Ladies European Tour, Current Order of Merit Ranking: 59

Ladies European Tour, Rookie of the Year Ranking: 3

Earnings this season on LET: €14,224.77

Aditi Ashok of India reacts after a putt on the 18th green during the second round of women’s Olympic golf. (AP Photo)

Career highlights

# Only Indian golfer to have played the Asian Youth Games (2013) Youth Olympic Games (2014) and Asian Games (2014)

# Maiden national win was at the age of 9 years and 10 months

# Three-time national junior champion in 2012, 2013, 2014

# Two-time national amateur champion in 2011, 2014

# Played twice at World Amateur Team Championships, Junior Open and Faldo Series Asia Grand Final

# Played four times at Asia-Pacific Ladies Team Invitational Queen Sirikit Cup

# Played five times at the Asia Pacific Juniors and a few others for India from the age of 12

Aditi Ashok, hits to the green on the 18th hole during the second round of the women's golf event. (AP Photo)

Course records

# Equalled the women’s amateur course record of eight-under par on the New Course, St Andrews Links in May 2015

# Set a women’s course record of eight-under par at the Karnataka Golf Association, Bangalore in July 2015

# Equalled the men’s course record and set a women’s course record with her career’s lowest round of 10-under par on Samanah Country Club, Marrakech, Morocco in Dec 2015

# The youngest and first Indian to win Ladies European Tour’s Lalla Aicha Tour School 2016 with the lowest winning score of 23-under par at 17 years

Friday, 19 August 2016



Profile of 2 Champions

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (born 5 July 1995) is an Indian badminton player.

On 10 August 2013, Sindhu became the first ever Indian women's singles player to win a medal at the World Championships. On 30 March 2015, she received India's fourth highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri. On 18 August 2016, she became the first Indian woman to reach Olympic finals after beating Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the semi-finals of Rio Olympics 2016. She broke into the Top 20 in the Badminton World Federation rankings released on 21 September 2012.

Sindhu's father Ramana is himself an Arjuna Awardee. Ramana represented India in Volleyball. On 18 August 2016 Sindhu beat Japanese badminton player Nozomi Okuhara in Rio Olympics 2016 to enter into the finals of Badminton singles and assuring India of a medal in badminton.

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu was born to P. V. Ramana and P. Vijaya – both former volleyball players. Ramana also won the Government of India-instituted 2000 Arjuna Award for his sport. Though her parents played professional volleyball, Sindhu chose badminton over it because she drew inspiration from the success of Pullela Gopichand, the 2001 All England Open Badminton Champion. She eventually started playing badminton from the age of eight.

Sindhu first learned the basics of the sport with the guidance of Mehboob Ali at the badminton courts of Indian Railway Institute of Signal Engineering and Telecommunications in Secunderabad. Soon after she joined Pullela Gopichand's badminton academy.

The fact that she reports on time at the coaching camps daily, travelling a distance of 56 km from her residence, is perhaps a reflection of her willingness to complete her desire to be a good badminton player with the required hard work and commitment.

Gopichand seconded this correspondent's opinion when he said that "the most striking feature in Sindhu's game is her attitude and the never-say-die spirit." After joining Gopichand's badminton academy, Sindhu won several titles. In the under-10 years category, she won the 5th Servo All India ranking championship in the doubles category and the singles title at the Ambuja Cement All India ranking. In the under-13 years category, Sindhu won the singles title at the Sub-juniors in Pondicherry, doubles titles at the Krishna Khaitan All India Tournament, IOC All India Ranking, the Sub-Junior Nationals and the All India Ranking in Pune. She also won the under-14 team gold medal at the 51st National School Games in India.
Pullela Gopichand coach of 
Gopichand was coached by S. M. Arif before Prakash Padukone accepted him at Prakash Padukone academy. He also trained under Ganguly Prasad at the SAI Bangalore. Gopichand won his first National Badminton Championship title in 1996, and went on to win the title five times in a row, until 2000. He won two gold and one silver at the Indian national games, 1998 held at Imphal. At the international level, he represented India in 3 Thomas Cup tournaments. In 1996 he won a gold in the SAARC badminton tournament at Vijayawada and defended the crown in the next games held at Colombo in 1997. At the 1998 Commonwealth Games, he won a silver in the team event and a bronze in men's singles. In 1999, he won the Toulouze open championship in France and the Scottish open championship in Scotland. He also emerged winner at the Asian satellite tournament held at Hyderabad in the same year, and lost in the final match of the German grand prix championship.

In 2001, he won the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham. He defeated then world number one Peter Gade in the semi-finals before defeating Chen Hong of China to lift the trophy. He became the second Indian to achieve the feat after Prakash Padukone, who won in 1980.
How PV Sindhu stunned Nozomi 
Okuhara with a badminton blitzkrieg to enter the finals of Rio Olympic 2016by Aug 19, 2016

Bearer of a billion Indian hopes for a second medal at the Rio Olympics 2016, shuttler Pusarla Venkata Sindhu produced one of the finest and most passionate performances of her career, to pummel Japan's Nozomi Okuhara into submission in the women's singles semi-final on Thursday.

The brilliant 51-minute victory by a 21-19, 21-10 scoreline over the reigning All-England champion made the 21-year-old Sindhu the first player from India to earn the right to contest an Olympic badminton final, and firmly eclipsed the bronze medal winning display by compatriot Saina Nehwal at the 2012 London Games.

After jousting on even terms with Okuhara for about one-and-a-half games, the gloves were off for Sindhu at 10-all in the second game. She unleashed a barrage of attacking strokes and grabbed 11 straight points in a seven-minute blitzkrieg that left her diminutive rival stunned, shocked and disoriented. Okuhara's plans of taking the match the full distance lay in tatters.

On Friday evening, Sindhu will spar with Spanish two-time world champion Carolina Marin for the coveted gold medal. Marin looked in commanding form as she dislodged defending champion Li Xuerui of China from the Olympic throne, with a dominating 21-14, 21-16 triumph.

PV Sindhu reacts following her win over Japan's Nozomi Okuhara.

The left-handed Spaniard was in command for virtually the entire match with an impressive display of speed, power and sparkling stroke play, and even made up a 11-15 deficit in the second stanza with a string of six points. She did have an unwarranted stroke of luck at 17-16, when her 25-year-old opponent landed awkwardly on her left knee while playing a twisting airborne overhead shot, and went over on her back with a suspected ligament tear.

Following a prolonged medical time-out, in which Li got her knee strapped and insisted on continuing - much to the displeasure of her coach, former world champion, Chen Jin - the Chinese girl simply limped around the court without much hope of getting into a rally, and let Marin go through the formality of taking the remaining three points for victory.

But by staying on the court till the bitter end, Li was giving herself a chance of returning for the bronze medal play-off on Friday; had she retired before the completion of her match against Marin, her name would have been scratched off the event. Even so, her chances of taking the court against Okuhara on Friday appear remote with that damaged left knee.

Sindhu entered the court on Thursday with the full knowledge that she could not afford to get into a prolonged, no-holds-barred battle with one of the fittest and steadiest defensive players on the badminton circuit, one who possessed exemplary speed and footwork.

While winning the 2015 season-ending Super Series final in Dubai last December, Okuhara had beaten the best in the world, including Saina Nehwal and Carolina Maran. She followed it up with the prestigious All-England title in March this year. And she had won both by engaging her opponents in the most excruciatingly long and energy-sapping rallies she could conjure up.

Ergo, Sindhu came up with a gameplan completely different from the one she had used against China's 2011 world champion Wang Yihan in the quarter-final. Instead of consistently playing lengthy rallies, as she did against Yihan, the Indian gave the 21-year-old Okuhara no rhythm at all, punctuating short, sharp rallies with some long ones where the players covered every corner of the court in their attempt to catch the opponent out of position.

Okuhara did depart from her normal procedure by playing aggressively in the initial reaches of the opening game, but some resolute defending allowed Sindhu to move out into an initial 7-4 lead, which she enlarged to 11-6 at the breather. The lanky Indian used her height (where she had a nine-inch advantage over the 5' 1” Okuhara) and reach to attack her opponent's backhand and finish off the returns with steep smashes to untenanted areas.

After the interval, the pint-sized Japanese began to claw her way back, and reduced the margin to 10-12, and then to 13-15 and 15-17. Sindhu's familiar end-of-game nerves duly kicked in, and Okuhara came within striking distance at 17-18, and then 19-20. But the Hyderabadi lass kept her composure, and made sure that she had the first game in her satchel.

After an initial 3-0 breakout in the second stanza, Sindhu was reeled back by some robust retrieving by the Japanese girl, and thereafter, barely a point separated the two antagonists until the midway mark. The rallies were very even and absorbing, but one could tell that the Indian was tiring.

Sindhu held a wafer-thin advantage at 11-10 when the players went into the lemon break. The lead could have been a bit more substantial, had the Indian not missed two absolute sitters from mid-court, in her haste to finish the points by the short route. No doubt the errors occurred as a result of mistiming the kills since she was on to the shuttle a micro-second late.

The general expectation at that juncture of the match was that Okuhara would step up a gear and make Sindhu play longer rallies, and exploit the fact that the Indian looked more than a little winded at that stage. But to the utter consternation of the sizeable Japanese contingent in the crowd, quite the reverse took place.

As coach Pullela Gopichand later observed, "That breather at 11-10 in the second game marked a watershed moment in the match. I was sure that one of the two players would crack under the immense pressure at that point, and I was hoping it wouldn't be Sindhu. When she got a couple of quick points upon resumption, she simply piled on the pressure, and it was the Japanese girl who could not keep pace."

Having got her second wind during the interval, Sindhu suddenly upped the ante, and played two points at blinding pace. Okuhara was completely thrown by the tactic, and became just a little tentative and prone to errors. Sitting on a 13-10 lead, Sindhu went for broke, the adrenaline pumping furiously in her system, and the accurate, aggressive strokes flowing with great vigour and elan. There was even a whiplash backhand smash as she rushed the net behind an overhead half-smash.

As point after point got added to Sindhu's kitty, her opponent's resolve broke completely. As the Hyderabadi powered to 18-10, her supporters hoped against hope her end of game nerves wouldn't manifest in a typical clutch of unforced errors.

But Sindhu would have none of it today. Confidence continued to drip off each of her closing strokes, including a late deceptive drop at the net with a turn of the wrist that caught Okuhara back-pedalling in anticipation of a push to the body. And when, at match-point, the Indian followed up a fierce hit into her rival's body with a thunderous follow-up smash that brooked no response, she had taken the final 11 points of the match in an unbroken reel.

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu has just claimed a quartet of notable scalps in Michelle Li, Tai Tsu-ying, Wang Yihan and Nozomi Okuhara. Now only Carolina Marin stands between her and the ultimate prize at these Olympics.

The untold tale of P Gopichand, PV Sindhu’s self-taught guru
Aug 17, 2016

One day, ten months ago, Pullela Gopichand read out the riot act to PV Sindhu. He told her that unless she screams standing in the middle of the badminton court at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton academy in Hyderabad, with 50-odd shuttlers and coaches looking on, he would not let her touch the racquet.

"It was very tough for her because she is a soft person and not very aggressive,'' said PV Ramana, Sindhu's father, who was present when the incident happened. Ramana, who was a member of the bronze-winning Indian volleyball team at the 1986 Asian Games, understood the reason behind Gopi's insistence.


File image of Pullela Gopichand.

"Gopi says Indian children grow up in a very protected environment because of which they do not express themselves enough, even when they are in a sports arena. Showing a temperament by screaming a bit and an aggressive body language also helps to intimidate the opponent. In sport, where domination is key, this aspect is important,'' Ramana said.

Sindhu was driven to tears, but at the end of what seemed to her like an ordeal, she did scream, standing alone in the middle of the court.

Off court, Gopichand is perhaps the most genteel person you will meet. It is his mind that is tough as steel. 'Grit' could well be his middle name.

"When I started out as a coach, there were many who dissuaded me saying the system will not let you succeed. But I feel it is important to keep pushing. I saw ourselves as world beaters and I wanted to prove the sceptics wrong,'' Gopichand told me a year ago.

Resting on his laurels as a former All-England champion would have been the easier option for Gopi, but the desire to be part of world badminton, a space he calls "an exciting place to be in", propelled him into the role of a coach.

A self-taught guru, Gopichand is considered one of the most tactically astute minds in the game today. One who made Indian shuttlers, hitherto tourists on the badminton circuit, believe that the Great Wall of China, the badminton powerhouse, could be breached.

Sindhu's victory in the women's singles quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics on Tuesday, over Wang Yihan, the world number two and the silver medallist at the London Olympics, is the result of that "You can do it'' mantra. Never-easy-to-please Gopi was in fact, happy with the 21-year-old's work ethic against a better-ranked opponent.

"It was a spirited performance. Both players fought like hell but Sindhu stayed calmer under pressure. It is good to see her perform like this at this stage,'' said Gopi, after Sindhu's quarter-final triumph. He believes that in the form she is in now, she is good to go for gold.

PV Sindhu won straight games with scorelines of 22-20, 21-19

It also helps Sindhu's cause that she is not running into either Spain's Carolina Marin or China's Li Xuerui in the semi-finals. Sindhu will fancy her chances against Japan's Nozomi Okuhara, the world number six - even though with a 3-1 win-loss record against Sindhu, she has the edge on paper. The Indian's sole win came in 2012, while Okuhara has got the better of Sindhu in 2014, 2015 and February 2016.

Gopi and Sindhu beat the sun six days of the week. Both reach the academy by four am for an intense session that lasts three hours or more. The jugalbandi focuses on strategies to surprise opponents and works out chinks in Sindhu's armour. Gopi divides the court into different parts and works on Sindhu's wristwork, to get that backhand flip from the far left corner of the court to the right. Or the lunge at the net to execute that perfect heart-stopping drop shot.

Getting a ringside view into a world-class badminton coach training a world-class badminton player is like attending a science class. It is watching an astute mind unravel a difficult game and plot to gain complete control over the bird, its flight, its speed and its landing, by applying just the right pressure of the hand and the racquet.

Those lessons are being put into practice at Rio. To Sindhu's credit, she did not let the occasion, the stage and the fact that it was her debut at the Olympics get to her. Her reputation as a giant killer preceded her and she showed that those earlier two victories over Wang Yihan were not a flash in the pan. It was an extremely tight game but Sindhu switched gears to smash her way to victory at just the right moment.

"It is not finished yet. There is still a lot of work to do,'' said Sindhu after the match.

That could well have been Gopichand speaking. When I asked him what does every medal won by his wards mean to him, he replied "more responsibility''. "It tells me there is a lot of work yet to be done. When someone wins a medal, I tell myself we need to better it next time,'' said Gopi.

At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, a dejected Gopichand, after losing in the pre-quarters, told fellow shuttler Aparna Popat, "I do not know if I shall be able to compete in the next Olympics but I would like to coach someone and bring home an Olympic medal through them.''

Gopi realised that dream through Saina Nehwal's bronze at the London Olympics. Knowing his thirst to do better, India can be sure that Gopi would be working towards a Golden dream at Rio, courtesy Sindhu.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Over 10,500 years old Ancient Camping Site Discovered In Ladakh By ASI

Over 10,500 years old Ancient Camping Site Discovered In Ladakh By ASI
An ancient camping site has been discovered by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir.

The site that dates back to the 9th millennium BC was unearthed near the Karakoram Pass in the region.

Interestingly, the site was also discovered by chance. Dr SB Ota, joint director deneral in ASI, who was travelling in Ladhak, last year, along the Saser stream. After covering a distance of about 22 km, he noticed a section, exposed due to road construction, showing successive layers comprising burning residue and immediately stopped to explore the area.

The area offered a perfect site for camping. “It was a small flat area with snow-covered peaks on one extreme, dry barren land with loose rocks all around and gushing stream within the deep western gorges, an ideal place for camping in a picturesque setting,” officials said.

Ota collected a charcoal sample from the site and sent to Beta Lab, Florida, USA, for radiocarbon date determination. The lab report stunned the Archaeologists. It said the sample showed it could be dated 8,500 BC (10,500 years before present).

Soon, another team of senior ASI officials including the director general travelled to Ladhak last month. “During this visit, more charcoal samples and associated bones were collected. Two of the charcoal samples from lower and upper deposits sent for dating have provided new radiocarbon dates of c. 8,500 BC and c. 7,300 BC (c. 10,500 and 9300 years before present) respectively. These dates have indeed confirmed the earlier date,” the culture ministry official statement said.

Apart from that, new dates also indicate repeated human activity at this camping site for about eight hundred years. Preliminary studies of charred bones collected from here, carried out by Prof P.P. Joglekar of Deccan Collage, Pune, have shown the presence of Gorel and Yak.

To carry out further investigations in the camping and people who could have used it, proper archaeological excavations and explorations are being planned by the ASI.

“It will not be an easy task to undertake these works in such a rugged terrain at an altitude around 14,000 feet, with low oxygen and no habitation. However, these are the added attractions for those who work with passion.” the ASI said.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Back Baloch, reclaim PoK: Modi moves to fix India’s biggest geopolitical failure

Back Baloch, reclaim PoK: Modi moves to fix India’s biggest geopolitical failure
Aug 13, 2016

The elephant isn't easily provoked. But if it is boxed into a corner and incited with a thousand cuts, the aggressor runs the risk of being trampled in the wake of its eventual rage.

For decades since Independence, India has historically and inexplicably let Pakistan run away with the Kashmir narrative. Pakistan has forced three battles on us over the Valley and lost each of those. But Islamabad still managed a permanent seat on the high horse of morality. It got to set the terms despite being the vanquished. And as victors, all that successive Indian governments could do was to adopt a defensive posture.

While we have always tended to ignore, even play down our legal claim over the part of Kashmir (the so-called Northern Areas now known as Gilgit Baltistan) occupied by Pakistan, our neighbours have never failed to claim its writ on the area on our side of Line of Control through diplomatic, overt and even covert means.

A combination of Pakistan's sustained campaign and India's lazy response meant that the world now assumes "Kashmir problem" to be pertaining only to the area under our possession. International spotlight has consequently remained permanently focused on India and the way it manages to handle an unquiet land, allowing Pakistan to carry on with large-scale muffling of voices and untold atrocities on PoK. Recent Chinese interest has served to complicate matters even more.

Forced to deny alleged human rights violations in the Valley, forever on the defensive and repeatedly goaded by international agencies to "fix" and "solve" the "Kashmir dispute", India has remained mired in its biggest geopolitical failure.

In the last few days, however, there have been visible signs of a remarkable shift in India's foreign policy. It remains to be seen how the script pans out but Pakistan's cynical attempt to turn the killing of a terrorist into an inflection point for Kashmir insurgency seems to have finally broken the elephant's patience. The green shoots of a new muscular, counter-offensive strategy is visible.

File picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Srinagar. Reuters

The line of a new tactic, first articulated through external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup and then hammered out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an all-party meeting on Kashmir on Friday is clear.

India will categorically reclaim its writ over Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, no longer tolerate interference in matters internal and intrinsic to India's sovereignty, rebuff Pakistan's efforts of whitewashing cross-border terrorism and most significantly, expose globally its gross human rights violations, brutalities and untold atrocities in Balochistan and PoK.

Turning the tables on Pakistan which has always sought to include Kashmir within the ambit of bilateral talks, Modi said: "When we talk about Jammu and Kashmir, we should talk about four parts of Jammu and Kashmir -Jammu, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and PoK," thus totally redrawing the contours.

His categorical statement that "PoK is ours", is as big a strategic shift as any. This denies Pakistan the right to peddle a one-sided narrative on Kashmir and simultaneously stonewalls China's long-term ambitions in altering the ground situation in South Asia. This is of huge significance.

Defence analyst Alok Bansal who has earlier widely commented on the radicalisation of Kashmiri youth and the dangers posed by influence of the Islamic State in Kashmir, told ANI that Modi's statement on PoK is an important step.

This is an important step, India has now categorically stated that PoK is a part of India-Alok Bansal, Security Expert
- ANI (@ANI_news) August 13, 2016
Security expert Ajay Sahni concurred, explaining that the statement, coming from the Prime Minister, puts Islamabad on the mat and is important both for international discourse and domestic discourse.

"For the first time at this level we have had a very clear statement on what is essentially the Indian Constitutional position that should have been articulated by the Indian State even in view of the UN Council Resolution," he told ANI.

"It is very important that the Prime Minister has chosen himself to put up a statement. It will have two crucial consequences - one, it will result in a better informed national-international community because the world has always accepted the Pakistani position that has always been very aggressively articulated."

Narratives do not emerge on their own. Often it is the effect of meticulous effort and an efficient communication strategy. Expats who have fled PoK can voice concerns that have systematically been silenced by Pakistan.

"Foreign ministry should get in touch with expats from PoK living in various parts of the world, gather information from them on the pitiable condition in the region and let the global community know about it," said the Prime Minister. This takes the battle straight up Islamabad's alley.

India'a position vis-à-vis Balochistan, whose struggle for Independence has met with large-scale state-sponsored brutality from Pakistan, has long been ambivalent and a lost opportunity.

During a recent visit to India, Balochistan activist and women's leader Naela Quadri Baloch, who has long been campaigning against Pakistan's presence, opened up about the war imposed by Pakistan on her people.

Speaking to Times of India, Naela Qadri Baloch said: "For the last 15 years, we are facing war imposed on us by Pakistan, human rights violations and their kill-and-dump policy. 25,000 people including women and children are missing. They are abducted by Pakistan Army and abducted in front of people. There are testimonies and witnesses to these abductions. But it is not simple human rights violations or missing person's issue. It has reached the level of genocide."

"There are a hundred mass graves in Balochistan. It is a war situation; they are combing our villages. They fire indiscriminately, they kill anything-one-year-old babies, girls, women, anything living, even our cattle. They abduct women, they take women with them, they have rape cells… They have abducted thousands of women; no one knows their whereabouts. They are using rape and dishonour as an instrument to crush a nation."

In the interview conducted in May this year, she also appealed to India, specifically requesting Modi to lend moral and diplomatic support to Balochistan in its battle for freedom.

"Modi is a bold and strong leader. None of his predecessors had this kind of mandate with a flourishing economy and enormous international support. Indira Gandhi had internal problems and despite that she stood up for Bangladesh. So why can't Modi?"

There is a clear case of a clear Indian policy on Balochistan and Modi's comments on Friday during the al-party meeting indicated a shift in approach.

"The violation of human rights in Balochistan should be brought to the attention of the global audience," Modi said. "Time has now come that Pakistan will have to answer to the world about the atrocities being committed on people in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir."

India has a huge opportunity to wrest the Kashmir initiative and open new front against Pakistan, which anyway has little international credibility beyond the backing of Asia's largest power. Whether or not Modi seizes it will define his legacy.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

PM Modi's speech on Kashmir, PoK and Balochistan

PM Modi's speech on Kashmir, PoK and Balochistan that has left Pakistan fuming
Hard-hitting, blunt, historic, bold - call them anything, for PM Narendra Modi's concluding remarks at the all-party meeting on Jammu & Kashmir, have left Pakistan fuming!
By: FE Online | New Delhi | Published: August 13, 2016 7:12 PM

Modi’s mention of both PoK and Balochistan has evoked strong response, with Baloch leaders welcoming the support and urging PM to raise the issue in UN’s session September. (Reuters)

Hard-hitting, blunt, historic, bold – call them anything, for PM Narendra Modi’s concluding remarks at the all-party meeting on Jammu & Kashmir, have left Pakistan fuming! Stating that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is a part of the state of J&K, PM Modi said, “Today, when we talk of Jammu & Kashmir, we should talk about four parts of the State of Jammu & Kashmir: Jammu, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.” “The fundamental reason for disturbances in Kashmir is cross-border terrorism promoted by our neighbouring country. Due to terrorism normal life in Kashmir Valley is affected,” the Prime Minister slammed. “…when weapons have been seized in such huge numbers, so many foreign terrorists have infiltrated to spread death and destruction, the world will never accept the false propaganda of Pakistan, even if it speaks a hundred thousand lies,” Modi added.

The Prime Minister also warned, “Pakistan forgets that it bombs its own citizens using fighter planes. The time has come when Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Baluchistan and PoK.” Modi’s mention of both PoK and Balochistan has evoked strong response, with Baloch leaders welcoming the support and urging PM to raise the issue in UN’s session September. Modi’s comments also come at a time when Gilgit-Baltistan is on fire after massive protests erupted against a crackdown by Pakistan’s security forces. Gilgit-Baltistan is a part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). In case you missed it, here is the full text of PM Modi’s statements, as released by the Prime Minister’s Office:

I am very happy to note that all our colleagues have expressed one voice and one sentiment.

Today, when we talk of Jammu & Kashmir, we should talk about four parts of the State of Jammu & Kashmir: Jammu, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

I am thankful to leaders of all political parties for the concerns they have expressed about the current situation in parts of Jammu & Kashmir. The rich traditions nurtured by our democracy for last six decades have been the biggest strength of unity and integrity of our country. We may have some differences on some issues but when it comes to the integrity and sovereignty of the country, we all stand united.

Like every Indian, I have been deeply hurt by the recent incidents in Jammu & Kashmir. It is very sad to see that children are not able to study, apple produce is not able to reach the mandis, shopkeepers are not getting their daily income and Government offices are not able to work for the service of the people. The poor are the worst affected by this situation.

Our existence as political workers is on account of the people. They are our strength, our source of energy; In fact, people’s power is a vital part of our public life. Irrespective of whether a civilian or security force personnel is injured or killed, the pain is felt by all of us. I express deep sympathies to their families. We are committed to provide the best healthcare services to the injured; we want to restore peace in the Valley at the earliest possible so that people can lead their normal life, can earn their livelihoods, send their children to school and sleep peacefully at night.

We are committed to a permanent and peaceful solution to the issue of Jammu & Kashmir in accordance with the basic principles of the Constitution. We have an open mind and our doors are always open. We are committed to the welfare of every citizen of the entire State of Jammu & Kashmir. We have been following the path shown by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji to find a solution.

Jammu & Kashmir is often called the crown of India. In fact, Jammu & Kashmir is a symbol of the age old commitment of equanimity towards all creeds (sarv-panth sambhaav), where Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Muslims have been living together for centuries. The state of Jammu & Kashmir is the symbol of our founding fathers’ faith which defines us as Indian in spite of our diversity. Jammu & Kashmir is not only a matter of our territorial integrity but also defines our nationhood. We cannot deny the fact that the security forces have suffered a lot of injuries; that they have been the target of planned attacks. Despite this, our security forces have shown restraint. Statistics reveal that security personnel have been injured in large numbers.

Despite false propaganda by certain elements in Kashmir, the percentage of those spreading confusion and unrest; and those instigating youth is very low. Every Kashmiri wants peace, has faith in Democracy. That is why, despite threats by separatist elements during every election, the Kashmiri people have expressed faith in the Indian democratic system in each election (festival of Indian democracy). Even just prior to the recent disturbances, high votes were cast in the constituency of Chief Minister Mehbooba ji. Therefore, to spread the myth that this is a public agitation is far from the truth.

In some areas certain restrictions were imposed in order to maintain law and order. This is an administrative way of maintaining law and order. Otherwise the lives of peace loving people will be affected adversely. In reality, a common man was not troubled as much by such restrictions, as he was troubled by continuous strikes declared by separatist elements.

During this period, the Amarnath Yatra proceeded smoothly. In addition, the State Government has taken up a number of initiatives on solar energy in the Ladakh region. The NEET, CET, and UPSC Civil Services Exams were organised as per schedule. All essential commodities were provided to citizens. We are now approaching the crucial season for tourism. The Apple crop will also be ready for harvest. This is of paramount importance for the livelihood of a common Kashmiri. Certain separatist elements are trying to take advantage of this time and disturb the peace in Kashmir, and unnecessarily disrupt the lives of peace-loving citizens.

The fundamental reason for disturbances in Kashmir is cross-border terrorism promoted by our neighbouring country. Due to terrorism normal life in Kashmir Valley is affected. Since the start of Terrorist activities in Kashmir in 1989-1990, in action by the Security Forces:

• More than 34,000 AK 47 Rifles were seized.

• More than 5000 Grenade launchers were seized.

• Around 90 LMGs were seized.

• More than 12,000 Revolvers were seized.

• 3 Anti Tank Guns and 4 Anti Aircraft Guns were seized.

• More than 350 Missile Launchers were seized.

• 63,000 kilograms of explosives including RDX and more than one lakh Grenades were seized.

• During this period more than 5,000 foreign terrorists were killed which is almost equal to the strength of 5 Battalions.

When weapons have been seized in such huge numbers, so many foreign terrorists have infiltrated to spread death and destruction, the world will never accept the false propaganda of Pakistan, even if it speaks a hundred thousand lies.

Pakistan forgets that it bombs its own citizens using fighter planes. The time has come when Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Baluchistan and PoK.

We are fully committed to the fundamental rights of the people. Our anti-terror laws are more humane than those of any other democracy in the world. Our governments and our security forces have shown restraint in dealing with these incidents.

India will fight against terrorism with full might and resolve. This is our national duty. To consider India’s commitment to the Rule of Law, as a weakness, will be a mistake by our opponents. India is committed to end terrorism. For us, ‘means and ends’ are both important and we are sufficiently capable in both these regards.

It is also a fact that Kashmiri Pandits have been displaced from their centuries-old ancestral dwellings in Kashmir Valley. Such atrocity against a particular community is the misdeed of terrorists trained and armed with weapons by Pakistan, and their sympathizers. These can never be the deeds of those who believe in “Kashmiriyat.”

For the all round development of Jammu and Kashmir, a decision has been taken for implementing a development package of more than Rs. 80 thousand crore (800 billion rupees) in consultation with the State Government. This package not only has proposals for roads and electricity projects, it actually envisages development of every region and every section of society of Jammu and Kashmir. This includes better facility for education of children, employment to youths, modern facility for treatment, facilities for promotion of tourism in the state and special arrangements for production of fruits in the State.

In order to provide employment immediately, the government has decided that 10 thousand Special Police Officers (SPOs), about 1200 Para Military and about 4000 candidates in 5 IR battalions will be recruited. In addition, about 1 lakh 25 thousand (125,000) persons will be trained under Udaan and HIMAYAT schemes so that unemployed people can get appropriate employment.

The PDP-BJP government led by Ms. Mehbooba Mufti is making best efforts to address the State’s problems. During the last one month, the Government has tackled the situation very carefully in spite of extremely adverse circumstances. The whole nation stands with her.

I would like to reiterate that the Central and State Governments are committed to address the people’s genuine grievances and restore peace in the state. We will deal strictly with acts of violence, terrorism and anti India activities. At the same time, genuine grievances of every person will be heard and addressed.

I would like to reiterate that all the political parties and all Indians will have to stand united in the fight against terrorism and destructive forces. At a time when terrorism is spreading its wings across the world, and terrorism is being instigated by our neighbour, we will have to fight this battle unitedly. The government has an expectation of constructive cooperation from all political parties in this matter. All political parties will have to bury their differences and cooperate to restore peace and prosperity in the state. I fully believe that with the active efforts of the state government and with your full cooperation, we will be able to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir very soon.

I would like to reiterate our main steps and our policy in respect of Kashmir:

1) It is the duty of any Government to maintain law and order. There will be no compromise with terrorism.

2) In today’s age, in accordance with democratic traditions, we will encourage involvement of civil society with citizen activities.

3) We will take forward the political process, in accordance with democratic traditions.

4) The process of connecting Kashmiri youth with economic activities of the State will be speeded up.

5) The States in which people of Jammu & Kashmir are residing, whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Buddhists or of any religion, should approach them and should make efforts so that they can establish contact with their relatives in Jammu & Kashmir and can apprise them about their own progress and the progress in other States of India.

6) Ministry of External Affairs should make efforts to approach the people of PoK residing in different parts of world and collect information about the miserable conditions in PoK and bring them to the knowledge of the world community.

I once again thank you all for giving your important views and suggestions in this meeting. I thank you all for supporting the Government. We all are committed to this national spirit that there cannot be any compromise on India’s territorial integrity. We are ready to address grievances of all sections within the framework of the Constitution.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

GSTN floated by UPA in 2013, with private ownership of 51 percent?

‘GSTN-a PC time bomb’: Why Subramanian Swamy thinks GST won’t survive in SCSaubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Updated: Aug 09, 2016 10:17 IST

File photo of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. Swamy, a Harvard-returned economist, has not been a vocal supporter for the Goods and Services Tax. (Anshuman Poyrekar / HT Photo )

The ruling NDA government, economists and even the opposition is optimistic about the Goods and Services Tax. But Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy is not.

A day after the 122nd constitution amendment bill was cleared by Parliament, ending the legislation’s five year-long hibernation, Swamy raised questions if the future GST act can withstand legal scrutiny.

“I am confident Smart Cities will be a reality in 2018 but not sure if the future GST Act can survive in SC because of GSTN-- a PC time bomb,” Swamy tweeted on Tuesday morning.


Subramanian Swamy

I am confident Smart Cities will be a reality in 2018 but not sure if the future GST Act can survive in SC because of GSTN-- a PC time bomb
7:17 AM - 9 Aug 2016

By “PC era”, Swamy meant the duration when 
P. Chidambaram was the finance minister of the previous UPA government.

The Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) is the special purpose vehicle that was formed to create the information technology backbone to the roll-out of the new, nationwide tax that will replace myriad local levies.

In the GSTN, the government of India holds 24.5 % share. State governments, including NCT of Delhi and Puducherry, and the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers, together hold another 24.5%. Balance 51% equity is with non-government financial institutions.

Swamy, a Harvard-returned economist, has not been a vocal supporter for the GST. He is also known to have a bitter equation with Chidambaram who is now in the same Rajya Sabha, where Swamy is a member. During the seven-hour-long debate on the GST bill in the Upper House last week, the BJP did not allow Swamy to participate.

The BJP leader also re-tweeted an article that questioned why the tax collection management of GST has been given to an entity where private players have a majority stake.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the GST bill will liberate people from “tax terrorism” as the Lok Sabha passed a Constitution amendment bill for GST.

Modi also said the consumer will be “king” in the new system and hailed the new tax regime as “pro-poor” and “pro-consumer”.

Why was GSTN floated by UPA in 2013, with private ownership of 51 percent?

The decision of UPA Govt to allow a majority stake by private entities in a non-profit (GSTN) is bafflingBy Team PGurus - August 7, 2016
The decision of UPA Govt to allow a majority stake by private entities in a non-profit (GSTN) is bafflingWas it clairvoyance on part of the UPA Government to float a Section 25 company in 2013, called Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) to control the accounting and tax collection management of Goods and Services Tax (GST)? 

For a government that tended to be slow, it was a swift move to float this company with 51 percent private shares (see the graphic below). 

Centre and State Governments have only 49 percent in GSTN. Being a Section 25 company, GSTN is a not-for-profit organization. Then why do private entities have a majority stake in it? What is in it for them? As of Jan 31st, 2016 the list of shareholders in GSTN is:
GSTN Shareholding patternCreation of GST involves Constitutional Amendments and this GST administration and tax management company should have been ideally created by a consortium of Centre and State Governments. After all they have all the data and it is a matter of pulling them together for computation of GST. The question then is why the then Finance Ministry under P Chidambaram took this decision to outsource such a strategic activity to the private sector?

On first looks, the most significant player in this tax collection effort should be the one who has the Data. In this case, that would be the Central and State Governments. Everything else such as adjusting the percentage of GST for various states is just a matter of programming, which could have been done by the Government itself. After all, it has codified Income Tax! This cannot be more complicated than that!

A closer look at the private partners reveals that entities such as the HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and LIC Housing Finance Limited have shareholding of several foreign investments companies. In LIC Housing Finance Limited, among the 59 percent private shares, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Bank of Muscat, Mawer International Equity Fund, ICICI Prudential are the major private players.

In our opinion, tax administration is a sensitive matter dealing with sensitive information. Being a shareholder, would this automatically mean that HDFC and ICICI will be the bankers of public money collected through taxes? If yes, that would be a large amount of money passing through these banks! Also has the Home Ministry approved GSTN operators to allow them access to tax data?

The GST Bill has a long way to go. Only the constitutional amendments have been passed in the Parliament. States have to come on board and the final bill needs to be drafted and agreed to be made into law. Adequate security has to be established to ensure that this data does not fall in the wrong hands. There is still time to put the right structure in place. Will the Narendra Modi government do it?

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

ATM skimming fraud

Skimming racket busted, 3 Romanians arrested
TNN | Oct 6, 2015, 01.16 AM IST

MUMBAI: A major international skimming racket was busted by the Vinobha Bhave Nagar police of Kurla last week with the arrest of three Romania nationals. With these arrests, the police claim to have solved several undetected skimming cases registered across the city.

The three Romanians—Aulin Budoai, Marian Grahma and Mew Ionel—came to India in June on tourist visas and rented a two-bedroom flat in an upmarket area in Bandra. The police raided the house and recovered Rs 28.5 lakh cash, two laptops, 497 debit cards with magnetic code, mini-spy cameras, skimmers and five phones. Cops have frozen their passports and intimated the Romania embassy.

The gang would reccee ATMs and identify unguarded ones. They would enter the kiosks under the pretext of withdrawing money while their aides would keep a watch. "They would stick the skimmers near the card-reading slots and the cameras near the keyboards. The machines would, throughout the day, extract data from cards of people using the ATM and the cameras would record the PIN. Later, the accused would come and collect the machines. Using the recorded data, the perpetrators made duplicate ATM cards and used them to withdraw cash," said Deven Bharti, joint commissioner.

The racket came to light after a Kurla resident went to the police, complaining that Rs 36,500 had been withdrawn from her account four times. "We found the cash was withdrawn from a Kurla (W) ATM. We zeroed in on the accused from CCTV footage," said an officer.

"They duped many in Italy, Romania and other European nations. We'll get in touch with Interpol," said assistant commissioner Srirang Nadgowda.

Don’t become a victim of ATM skimming, here’s what you need to know-Some precautions you may want to take before withdrawing cash at an ATM
Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

More than four lakh rupees were drained from the bank accounts of 20 unsuspecting people in Thiruvananthapuram in a matter of seconds. They were all victims of skimming. While the Kerala police is on the lookout for three foreigners suspected to be behind the state’s biggest ATM fraud, here’s what you can do to keep your hard earned money safe from fraudsters.

What’s skimming?

Thieves place skimming device on the ATM Counter, by either replacing the original card reader or placing it on top of the reader. Designed to look like a legitimate card slot, Chronicle Live states, that the skimming device copies the magnetic strip details from your card. But the fraudsters still need your ATM PIN code. Fraudsters use hidden cameras to steal the secret code or they “shoulder surf” - someone who stands behind and watches you key in your PIN. Once fraudsters have your card details, they make a clone of the card and proceed to empty your bank account.

So what can you do to prevent becoming a victim of skimming?

If the card reader wiggles or has been attached with glue, don’t use the machine, suggests New York Times.

PC Mag India cautions users to check for signs of tampering – difference in colour, or material may indicate a skimming device. The report also suggests ATM users to check the next machine for obvious differences, for example if one card reader shows a sign of where to insert the ATM card while the other machine may have no such sign.

Chronicle Lives warns of a keypad that “feels spongy or unusually spot”. This suggests that the fraudster may have replaced the original keypad with a fake which helps register and steal the user’s PIN code.

Even if there’s no one standing behind you, always use your hand to cover the keypad while you type your ATM PIN, you never know who or what is watching, suggest experts.

Washington State Department of Financial Institutitons. For more pictures on what ATM skimming device looks like

But there are also some other precautions you may want to take:

Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. NYT suggests starting another savings account in another bank, so that you will you have back-up money in case the thief empties your account.

Switch to the EMV chip card – considered a safer option than the magnetic stripe card. The RBI had advised banks to issue only chip-based cards from September 2015 keeping in mind fraud in card transactions.

And finally, in the event you do become an unsuspecting victim of skimming, report it to the bank. You will in most cases get your money back.

Three foreigners walked into a Kerala ATM, stole data and robbed hapless people-Most of the complaints are registered under Museum police station

In a film style ATM robbery, 20 people lost about Rs 4.5 lakhs in Thiruvananthapuram. The racket was busted after many people filed a complaint with the police, following messages they had received on their phone intimating them about transactions, which they had not carried out. Media reports state that most customers lost their money on Monday around 1pm.

Kerala police suspect three foreigners are allegedly involved in one of the biggest ATM frauds in Kerala, where 20 people lost about Rs 4.5 lakhs in Thiruvananthapuram. The money was reportedly withdrawn from ATMs in Mumbai and Delhi. An SIT team on Tuesday left for Mumbai to carry out further investigations.

The state’s Special Investigation Team has obtained CCTV video from the SBI ATM at Althara Junction near Vellayambalam, where all the fraudulent transactions were carried out. The video shows three people attaching an electronic device at the ATM counter, enabling the fraudsters to collect the PIN code and card details.

The device that was fixed above the ATM machine, had a micro camera and another device was placed in the card slot of the machine. According to the police, the micro camera might have helped in getting the ATM PINs.

The three suspects in the case

"We have started proper investigation. As per our understanding, they were here for the last 10 days. We assume they have not got any local support. Our request to the public is to change their pin numbers at the earliest. As of now we have found the device only from this particular ATM. Between June 30 and July 10, they have visited the ATM. We have also intimated CBI, Interpol and other national agencies regarding this," Inspector General Manoj K Abraham, who heads the SIT told TNM.

SBI has promised to refund customers whose money was stolen.

Media reports suggest that the fraudsters stole data using a skimming device.

This is one of the biggest ATM heists that the state has witnessed and the modus operandi followed is eerily similar to a 2009 Malayalam movie Robinhood starring Prithviraj.

So what is skimming?

Designed to look like a legitimate card slot, Chronicle Live states that the skimming device copies the magnetic strip details from your card. But the fraudsters still need your ATM PIN code. In this case, Kerala police found that a micro camera had been placed which helped them obtain the secret code. Once fraudsters have your card details, they make a clone of the card and proceed to empty your bank account.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton-cholera or gonorrhea? Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange - the threat of a Donald Trump presidency doesn’t inspire him to back Hillary Clinton. When asked, Assange said: "You’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea?”


AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Julian, we cut you off earlier when you were talking about what you felt were the most significant emails that you have released. Is there any last one that you’d like to mention? And also, do you have any thoughts on Donald Trump? I mean, just before we went to air, a CNN poll came out that says Donald Trump is ahead by 5 percentage points of Hillary Clinton. Now, he did just come off of the Republican convention, but many called it the worst convention in history, so it’s not automatic that he should have had this percentage lead. Of course, though, you have the crisis, the disarray, the Democratic Party is in because of these emails that you’ve released.
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, you’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea? Personally, I would prefer neither. 

Look, I think—you know, we know how politics works in the United States. Whoever—whatever political party gets into government is going to merge with the bureaucracy pretty damn fast. It will be in a position where it has some levers in its hand. And so, as a result, corporate lobbyists will move in to help control those levers. So it doesn’t make much difference in the end. 

What does make a difference is political accountability, a general deterrence set to stop political organizations behaving in a corrupt manner. That can make a difference, because that changes the perception of what you can do or not do. 

And so, always—well, almost always, you should choose the principled position, which is to set a disciplinary signal about acting in a corrupt way, and take a philosophical position, which is our institutions can only be as good as our understanding of our institutions.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to—
JULIAN ASSANGE: Now, are you asking—the other—
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, go ahead, Julian.
JULIAN ASSANGE: The other top emails, well, as I said, I think this instruction by Luis Miranda, the head of communications, to go out and covertly spread anti-Bernie Sanders propaganda is a clear instruction combined with a chain of command. It’s not simply expressing a sentiment. It is expressing an instruction within the DNC to subvert the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Then there’s a lot of emails about the close relationship between the DNC and the media—The Washington Post involved in a co-fundraising party, an off-list co-fundraising for the DNC, calling up MSNBC during the middle of a program and saying, "Pull that segment now," Debbie Wasserman Schultz calling up the president of MSNBC in order to discipline Morning Joe, etc. That’s, you know, of course, something that we’ve all suspected happens, but this is concrete proof of it.

But, you know, I really encourage people to research the more than 8,000 attachments that we put out, separate files, including more than 175 spreadsheets. That has the real core, the financial core, of the power structure and the exercise of monetary influence over the DNC. And that’s something that’s going to seed journalistic investigations for years.

AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, we want to thank you for being with us. Julian Assange, founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. This is Democracy Now! You can go online at to read the transcript or to hear again either the audio podcast or the video, see the video of this interview. We’re broadcasting from the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. It’s the first day. It will be gaveled in in just a couple of hours from this broadcast. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. When we come back, a debate. Stay with us.


Some supp companies are manipulating their formulas to fool tests, give you less protein, and make a cheap buck. Do you really know what’s in your protein powder?

What’s in your tub of protein powder? There’s a good chance you don’t really know, as a number of compa-nies are topping off their products with low-grade ingredients masquerading as complete proteins—an unscrupulous prac-tice known as protein spiking

The label on your bottle might say “24 grams of protein,” when in fact the true content is closer to 15 or 10 or maybe even zero.

As the price of whey protein has exploded, so, too, have immoral practices by shady supplement companies looking to increase profit margins at the expense of the consumer. With protein spiking, instead of putting the full amount of protein in the product that’s stated on the label, a company will purposely come up short and fill the rest of its formula with cheap amino acids and other nonprotein ingredients that can fool the testing process.

The loophole that allows this to happen is the fact that protein content in such products is indirectly measured by nitrogen content. 

And any number of things that aren’t actually protein—free-form amino acids, creatine, and arginine, to name a few—can raise a powder’s nitrogen levels at a fraction of the cost of whey, thus making the product appear to contain more protein than it actually does. 

Of course, proteins are made up of individual amino acids, but throwing a bunch of random, cheap aminos into a container doesn’t replicate the various muscle-building, health, and performance-enhancing benefits of the complete proteins that should be in the supplement.

Not even close.

One company, however, knows exactly what’s in your protein powder: ChromaDex, an independent third-party testing lab with the tools to separate the quality products from the impostors. Their new seal program aims to eliminate any doubt whatsoever. When you see “ChromaDex Quality Verified” on your tub of protein, you’ll know you can trust the label.

In addition to sniffing out protein spiking, ChromaDex’s stringent testing will ensure that products meet full specification for ingredient identity, contaminants, heavy metals, and microbials.

“This will be a total game changer,” says BPI Sports co-founder and VP James Grage. “You as a consumer will no longer have to guess whether you’re getting a quality protein product or one that’s been spiked with subpar ingredients. BPI Sports getting the ChromaDex seal will force other companies to do the same.” 

For years, unscrupulous companies looking to save a buck could be as aggressive as a pro athlete looking to cheat a drug test, according to ChromaDex co-founder and CEO Frank Jaksch Jr. “If somebody is smart enough, they can find ways to fool it,” Jaksch says, referring to the melamine poisonings of 2007 and 2008. 

In those instances, companies added melamine—an industrial whitener for such products like dinner plates—to pet food, milk, and baby formula. In both instances, melamine was used to fool the industry-standard nitrogen test.

“Flash-forward to today and it’s like everybody has exercised selective forgetfulness,” Jaksch says. “[Protein spiking] is no different from melamine; it’s obviously a lot less harmful, but they’re just moving the bar. Whatever the cheap amino acid du jour is that happens to be nitrogen-containing will be what people grab on to.” 

In addition to using nitrogen testing to determine total protein, ChromaDex runs an amino acid profile to test for free-form and bound aminos. By definition, protein should contain very few free amino acids. So, for example, even if a nitrogen test confirms 20 grams of protein per serving, a high test for free amino acids would flag the sample, making the nitrogen data suspect.

“In a case like that, we would fail the sample,” Jaksch says. “If someone sent us a protein sample and it was all free amino acids, it’s a dead giveaway that the stuff has been spiked. It’s really that ratio between the free and the bound amino acids that tells you if your protein is up to snuff.”

While ChromaDex has supplied testing to just about every player in the supplement industry, Jaksch admits that some companies want more rigorous testing than others. 

Part of the seal program includes a thorough audit and inspection of the manufacturer’s facility. Jaksch explains that most supplement companies don’t own their manufacturing plants; they formulate the products, then use an outside vendor to mass-produce the product. “In my opinion, you actually learn more from the audit and inspection process than you will from the testing,” Jaksch says.

Inspecting the vendors—from the manufacturing facility all the way back to the raw materials—is time-consuming and expensive, a practice that, for years, scared off most supplement companies. “We created the concept of this seal program more than 10 years ago,” Jaksch says. “BPI was one of the first to understand this and say, ‘We can’t compromise, and we’re prepared to spend the money necessary to do this.’ ”

Grage sees it as a boon to the industry as a whole. “If they want to say that their product is just as good as ours, they’ll have to put their money where their mouth is and get it tested,” he says. “In the end, this is great for everyone. It means that all the big companies are going to put out better products.”


“You can’t use just one test to determine the potency of protein,” Jaksch says. Tests that look at the nitrogen content of powder are unreliable. Below, he points out three things ChromaDex looks for in testing:

> If the bottle says whey protein, can the consumer really trust that it’s whey and not derived from another source?

> An unscrupulous company might provide only 10 grams of protein per serving, with nitro-gen-containing aminos accounting for the rest.

> Subpar processing can lead to metals and microbiological con-tamination making their way into the product.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

AR Rahman talks about music, movies and family

AR Rahman talks about music, movies and family

Written By Ashwini Deshmukh
Junior Assistant EditorPosted Mon, Aug 1, 2016

I can’t stop beaming ever since I heard the news that the prestigious Berklee College Of Music, after conferring an honorary doctorate degree on AR Rahman in 2014, has now announced the Berklee AR Rahman Scholarship in the maestro’s honour. It makes you happy that Rahman, the humble composer, a follower of Sufism, whose music has touched millions, will now be able to help talented Indian artistes move in the right direction. 

The global music world, time and again, has applauded him for integrating Eastern classical music with electronic music sounds, world music genres along with traditional orchestral arrangements. The genius back home has also earned the title ‘Mozart of Madras’ and the nickname Isai Puyal (musical storm), given his unique musical sensibilities. But the maestro takes all the accolades including the recent scholarship named in his honour with humility.

Rahman reveals that he too wanted to learn music at Berklee but couldn’t do so because of economic constraints. “I missed going to Berklee when I was young. At that time I was the sole earner in my family. The bigger reason was also because I got Mani Ratnam’s Roja (1992). So I chose Roja over my wish to study.” 

And now the same college, which was a farfetched dream for him, has honoured him in such a huge way. “It’s an interesting phase of my life to be a bridge to do greater things for the next generation. So when I see these kids going there with the scholarship in my name, it gives me immense happiness. I hope they come back as amazing musicians and are able to bring change and spread the knowledge that they’ve gathered,” he says.

His was a rather humble childhood. His father R K Shekhar, was a film-score composer and conductor for Tamil and Malayalam films. He remembers carrying lunch for his father when he was four and watching him work. “I’d sit in the machine room, which had big magnetic machines. An old engineer would hold a lamp and would say, ‘Take’,” he recalls. 

He adds that his father was hugely overworked and used to conduct music for seven different projects at the same time. “My father wanted to have his own house and he worked extremely hard
to achieve that.” His mother, Kareema Begum, brought the children up single-handedly, taking up the role of both parents after his father passed away when he was just nine. 

He grows emotional and says his mother is someone he respects a lot because of all that she has been through. “She’s been a beacon of light for us to stay strong in testing times. She’s a huge inspiration and she was the one who took the decision that I pursue music. I owe it all to her.” 

Rahman’s other pillar of support is his wife, Saira Banu. “I’m indebted to my wife for keeping my life going, for taking care of our children, Khatija, Rahima and Ameen and my family. And also for getting me amazing costumes to wear and going about it passionately,” he smiles.
“I guess, I couldn’t be a good father because I was always working. But Saira took care of everything. It’s a huge bliss, when you have a supportive family.”

He has a philosophic stance on fatherhood. “I love what Khalil Gibran says, ‘Children come through you, not from you.’ So they all have their distinct personalities. When I went to my father’s studio after he passed away, I heard only good things about him. 

I wish, as a father, I could be even a small percentage of that to my kids.” His mother introduced him to spirituality and down the years, he’s turned composing music into a spiritual experience. “My music has to work for me first. I should like it because I’m living with it longer than any other person. If it recurrently gives me a good feeling, then I know it will be good for others too.” He says he feels he’s in sync with his Creator while composing. “The Sufi tracks wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t feel a connection.” 

He admits his connection with divinity is stronger on days he’s working on spiritual themes. “Most of the Sufi songs or the songs, which celebrate the Almighty, like Khwaja mere Khwaja or Oh palan haare or Kun faya kun happened because there was a strong sense of surrendering to His will. That state of mind doesn’t come very often,” he confides. “Once the song is made, it’s not yours anymore. You hear many qawwals (singers) performing the Sufi tracks at remote places; it’s so beautiful to see that.” He adds with a childlike smile, “I compose a lot of Sufi songs, which are only for my friends and me. What get released are the selected few.”

He’s known to frequent dargahs in order to get inspired. “I go where there’s a calling. They have to call us and we have to seek...,” he says referring to the shrines of saints he visits. There have been many tales about his austerity. Like he sleeps on mats or floors in a bid to lead a simple life. He laughs and agrees he used to do those things before. “Now I have developed back pain. I have to behave according to my age." 

He’s also supposed to be on a perpetual quest to annihilate the ego, something not deemed possible in the ego-centric industry. He smiles and says there are different kinds of egos. “You may have the ambition to create the best music in the world. But that doesn’t make you any special as a person. My creative ego is different, my personal ego is different,” he explains. 

He adds that an artiste should take his professional responsibility seriously. “People are paying you for creating something. So you have to do your best. You have to have a sense of pride and you have to work towards it.” 

On one hand he has witnessed unimaginable fame and success and on the other we see he's a seeker of eternal truths. It’s a wonder how he achieves a balance between materialism and spiritualism. 

He turns quiet for a while and then replies humbly, “The Prophet has always said, follow the middle path. Don’t slide either this way or that way. That’s one of the greatest advices I’ve come across. And that’s what I’m following.” 

It’s hard to be a practising Sufi in a world, which is increasingly full of conflict. He says the way forward is to take affirmative action and not remain aloof. “We can’t just say, ‘Somebody else will take care.’ 

The problem is that people generally leave the important tasks to others. Sadly, they’ve lost their own place because of that. You have to take responsibility of things. Be it politics or anything, if everybody turns away from it, then who is going to rule you? Some crook?”

He thinks it’s important to cultivate leadership everywhere, whether in an institution or a state. New India, according to him, should discover new leaders. The need of the hour is to create and nurture youngsters to become future leaders. 

That’s what he’s doing through his music conservatory in Chennai and through the Berklee scholarship. “There’s no use resting on the work of the previous generation, exhausting it and not giving back. That’s what I’m doing, training the future generation to excel and give back to society. They all look bright and promising and I’m sure they’ll make a difference,” he states. 

He wants the younger generation to do better than him. “I’ve done whatever I could within my limitations but I want them to go further. In every possible thing, in creating bridges, becoming ambassadors of unity, peace and create joy.”

Giving advice to young talent he says, “When we step out of the house, we look at the mirror. Similarly, it’s important to look at the mirror of your musicality too. You need to figure, where you stand. 

If you want to become a singer like Sonu Nigam, you need to know how hard he has worked. Don’t expect superstardom in the first leg, if it comes easy then it can also fall flat. It’s always better to build it through experience and become well-versed in all facets. Then you have a firm ground to stand on.” 

He adds persistence is important and quotes a beautiful line from Tamil poet and lyricist, Vairamuthu to elucidate that, ‘Like he says, ‘You can even make water stand still on a cloth. How? You have to wait until it becomes ice’. So, you need to have patience. 

You can develop your talent so beautifully that you become better than others. I don’t like singers who come unprepared and make you take a 100 retakes. I appreciate singers who come prepared and do the song in one take. Do your homework. People don’t have that kind of time anymore.” 

That he himself pursues excellence could be sensed in the soulful score he gave for Imitaz Ali’s recent Tamasha. Tum saath ho could well be dubbed the love anthem for a generation lost in turmoil.

After achieving every plaudit under the sun, he now wants to be an instrument for the younger generation. He wants to push them and help them bring out their creative best. 

“Twenty days back, I was on a cruise and I was playing Quincy Jones. Young piano players and singers came and applauded me saying, ‘Wow! What a great performance.’ Things like these fuel me and give me creative energy.” 

Ask him about his idea of immortal music and he ruminates, “Anything which connects and is made with honesty will work. And anything that is made just for the sake of a movie will fall flat.